Cloudy with A Chance of Pain?
Prof. Nick London reflects on one study which gained lots of media attention recently.
If you’ve been an orthopaedic surgeon for any length of time (and it’s fair to say I’ve been doing this a while) you’ll have lost count of the number of people who tell you their joints “play up” when the weather is damp and stormy, and settle down again when they head off on holiday to sunnier climes.
There’s always been some debate among the orthopaedic community about this. Do joints hurt more under certain atmospheric conditions? Or is there a feelgood factor in taking it easy and relaxing by the pool beneath a warm sun that clearly isn’t there when you’re lugging a bag of shopping up a steep hill in a howling gale?
It’s always been difficult to unpack the many factors involved: a little extra gentle exercise in the pool, perhaps a change in diet; the simple benefit of being happy. How can you know which is responsible for the effect on a patient’s joints?
So it’s genuinely interesting to see the results of the Cloudy With A Chance of Pain study, an initiative by University of Manchester-based researchers who conducted a 15-month study with over 13,000 UK residents living with chronic pain.
They analysed 5.1 million pain reports to discover that atmospheric conditions really do seem to play a part in joint pain.
In particular, they found that “days with higher humidity, lower pressure, and stronger winds are more likely associated with high pain days.”
Does it matter that the study has added scientific evidence to something chronic pain sufferers will have known for years? I believe so, because, as the project leaders themselves note: “A deeper understanding of the effects of the environment on pain may allow scientists to better understand the mechanisms that cause pain and allow the development of new and more effective treatments for those who live with pain.”
If you’re suffering with osteoarthritis and there’s no imminent holiday due to help alleviate it, talk to us.